The Prodigy started a revolution and they're not ready to give up their sonic armory just yet. The trio's forthcoming new album "Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned" is the follow-up to their 1997 classic "The Fat Of The Land."
On this new CD, frontman Liam Howlett set out to create a sound that would return to the band's roots with less punk and more beats. He was assisted by band members Maxim and Keith Flint.
"Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned" will hit stores in the US on September 14 (Shop at iTunes). I listened to a watermarked CD advance that I received early August.
Song titles like "Spitfire," "Hot Ride," "Shootdown," and "Get Up, Get Off" are a good reflection of the action-packed content of this album. Howlett wrote all 12 tracks on his Apple Powerbook. Guest vocalists include actress Juliette Lewis ("Hot Ride"), Oasis' Liam Gallagher ("Shoot Down") and the Ping Pong Bitches ("Girls").
Musically, the album effectively spits out fierce breakbeats, sleazy dance grooves and lots of sampled bits (including from Michael Jackson's "Thriller"). Howlett has an particular interest in vocals samples on this album. "I have to think about the vocals like samples and sounds," he said in an interview. "If they have a fucked up energy, they're in."
Ironically, by including a barrage of beats and samples the record has become a lot more punk than Howlett initially planned for. That's also where the problem lies with the album. What was supposed to be a fresh new production that was almost seven years in the making turns out to be an uneven effort that will please fans, but not does not push the envelop like some of the Prodigy's previous work did.
"Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned" kicks off with the pulsating "Spitfire," a track reminiscent of their previous hit "Firestarter." The group switches gears for a moment on the first single from the album "Girls." The track combines funky breakbeats with fun old-school "rock steady crew" synth loops. Rapper Twista lays down his rhymes tightly on the supercharged "Get Up, Get Off."
"Hot Ride" with actress Juliette Lewis ("Natural Born Killers") on vocals is disappointing. The fusion of metal rock and electro beats lacks any cohesive texture. Lyrics like "Up, up and away, in my beautiful balloon" don't provide any solace.
"Wake Up Call" features more driving beats and a catchy Indian flute refrain. Almost band member Kool Keith makes a cameo.
The group presents more '80s inspired beats and synth loops on "Action Radar" with punky vocals that result in the Prodigy's signature electro punk.
"Medusa's Path" is one of the few high notes on the album. The song kicks off with acoustic Iranian instrumentation by Gholam Hossein. This non-vocal track grows out to epic proportions with downbeat dance grooves, strings and squeaking electro bits. The tracks that follows "Phoenix" is a 2004 re-make of Shocking Blue's "Lovebuzz."
"The Way It Is" takes a stab at Michael Jackson's "Thriller." The song is based on a sample from Jackson's hit song, but the group has craftfully cut, pasted and re-engineering the sample with some high-tech bleeps, beeps and female vocals to create a new millennium club track.
The album finale "Shootdown" is a collaboration with Oasis' Liam Gallagher. On paper this teaming could result in some really interesting music, but the actual track lacks a hooky punch to make a lasting impression.